Machete wielding scooter riding robbers were brought down by Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad in a dramatic ambush in London yesterday. 

Dramatic scenes unfolded after the police were seemingly tipped-off about a raid on a high-class watch store in London’s Mayfair. As two helmet-wearing thieves gained entry to the exclusive Chronext store and started smashing the counters to make off with the expensive watches, police burst in and the armed raiders tried to flee on a couple of stolen scooters. A black Piaggio Beverly 350 and white Vespa GTS were intercepted as they mounted a pavement. One officer is in serious but stable in hospital after being run down by the thugs. Three other officers needed medical attention for minor injuries. Thankfully the robbers were captured, much to the shock of mid-morning shoppers in the swanky London district.

Our photographs were taken by a London cabbie and kindly supplied by his nephew. They show the Beverly lying on its side, petrol leaking from the filler cap and one of the assailants being restrained at the side of the road. The carefully-planned police operation was made possible thanks to intelligence. The tip off meant the shop staff were pre-warned and were kept safely in a back room during the raid. A machete, axe and knives were recovered at the scene. The robbery caused an estimated half a million pounds worth of damage to the shop.

"You're nicked sunshine..."
“You’re nicked sunshine…”

Once again it shows how lawless thugs are using stolen scooters in ever-increasingly violent crimes across our nation’s capital. These crimes are often carried out on higher capacity modern autos like the Vespa GTS 300, Piaggio Beverly 350 and Yamaha TMAX. Although the police and newspapers seem to wrongly brand them all as ‘moped’ crimes.

Either way, it means genuine law-abiding riders in London will suffer as the gangs use stolen scooters to commit crimes on our beloved machines. They’ll also begin to suffer from increased insurance premiums, especially on the models of scooter favoured by criminals.

Scooterist's Vespa stolen the day before and identical to the one used in the raid.
Scooterist’s Vespa stolen the day before and identical to the one used in the raid.

The day before the robbery the white GTS (above) was stolen from an area close to London Bridge. It’s an 11 plate with matching top box and tinted sports screen – a perfect match for the one used in the watch heist, although we can’t confirm at this stage whether it is the same scooter or not.

Bypass security

What is worrying is that all these scooters come with factory-fitted immobilisers. The gangs are targeting specific makes and models of machine, which means they’re able to overcome OEM security quickly and easily. Up until recently if you lost your master key/coded keys it meant buying a complete new ECU for your scooter and a lock set, at a cost of around £400 (depending on model). It’s now possible to have keys coded and an ECU reprogrammed at a shop, or by sending them off to unscrupulous traders found on the internet. A genuine dealer will ask for the V5 for the bike in question at the very least (see our Readspeed piece). Currently there is legislation requiring documents  in order to obtain a replacement number plate, but amazingly there is no such requirement for coded immobiliser keys.

The criminal gangs obviously have easy access to the technology needed to re-programme a scooters brain, or simply to fit a ‘clean’ ECU and matching key, meaning they’re soon able to ride around on the stolen machine.

Manufacturers need to up their game when it comes to security, as do owners. Always use a mechanical device at the very least to protect your scooter. Make sure you chain it to an immovable object and store it somewhere that will make it harder for them to gain access, if possible. Don’t become complacent.

Sales tactics?

The cynic may well say that a rise in stolen scooters means a spike in sales for the manufacturers/dealers as owners replace their stolen machines. Sadly the long-term effect means people lose faith in a brand, or worse still they stop riding altogether as they’re scared, or priced out of the two-wheeled world.